Every now and then, not often, I get asked if I miss playing football, pro football specifically.
I do remember after the first year I retired I can honestly say no, not at all. I felt "burned out" in many ways and really did not have the desire to play because my body had worn out and my mind followed.
About two years after that; yeah, I started to miss the feelings you get competing, playing and everything that goes with it. What you miss about football (or any intense occupation) is more what you feel, more than what you do. The intensity of the feeling, winning, can be addictive, but I also realize for every 'ying' there is a 'yang' and in sports the 'yang' is losing. Collectively and individually.
As I watched Toronto beat Edmonton this weekend, I thought about how I do miss playing and blocking and trying to protect a QB with the class of Ricky Ray. When you think of everything he went through, being traded when he did not deserve to be, having to learn a new complicated offence, endure a serious knee injury and then come back off that knee injury. And all the time while conducting himself with maturity and professional demeanor.
Yeah, I miss working with someone like that in a combat setting with a player like Ray, class act.
The respect generated back and forth is hard to find after you leave football. But then there is the opposite too. When I see a young man like Matt Nichols who on the simplest of plays gets his foot twisted in a way that is repulsive to the human eye, knowing how the next six months have to be dedicated to rehabilitation and what that takes, no, I don't miss football at all. Here is a young guy just trying to make things happen and now he can't walk for a while. He just picked up a new part time job that pays zero dollars called getting ready for next year. It takes time, effort, and complete dedication just for a chance to do it all again. No thanks; been there, done that, don't want to do it again.
Then watching the West semi-final, and Drew Tate completing that touchdown pass to Romby Bryant to move on to the West final! Man I caught myself thinking how much would I like to be in that winning locker room and to be a part of that moment. I had a couple of mental flashbacks of great wins that I have been a part of and what they were like. The feeling of collective accomplishment and yes, that party afterwards. The married guys get the night off, the single guys may see the sunrise, and the realization that all you have to do is win one more game carries you into the next practice with rejuvenated energy which is completely different than regular energy. You miss football then...
But of course, there is the other side. For the Riders, the season is over. And someone made a mistake, a big one. After Durant hit Carr for the touchdown I thought it was over, Riders win. But in one play, one moment of concentration loss, Riders lose. Being that guy I do not miss. It burns in you for a long time and may never leave. One of the "truest" statements about football is that losing hurts more than winning feels good. And, it is a collection of plays that shows why you lose and I do not miss being a part of that collection. The negative plays you experience often stick in your mind a lot longer than the 10-times more-positive ones do.
In the end, it still is just a game, right? A game that has a unique combination of strategy and physical action. Where intense emotion plays a big part yet self-control is a critical priority. Where you either win or you lose. That's it.
Sometimes I miss it, pro football. Sometimes, I don't.